After years and years of doing everything in their power to make cars as quiet as possible, it seems somewhat backwards that we're now talking about adding external speakers to hybrids in order to make them... louder. But that's the current reality, and Toyota, the undisputed worldwide leader in hybrid vehicles, is leading the way in Japan with its Prius hatchback.
For about $150, Toyota will equip the Japanese Prius with a Approaching Vehicle Audible System. According to the automaker, the technology is "designed to meet new Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism guidelines for hybrid and other near-silent vehicles." Expect the system to extend to other hybrids from Toyota and probably to countries outside Japan in time.
Anyone interested in making their third-gen Prius sound like a prop from Close Encounters of the Third Kind are encouraged to watch the Japanese-market video after the break. We're not going to cast a vote quite yet as to whether or not these systems are a good or bad idea, but we will say this: If we heard that noise coming at us from behind, you can bet we'd be rushing to get out of the way...
[Source: Toyota via Prius Chat]
TMC to Sell Approaching Vehicle Audible System for 'Prius'
Toyota City, Japan, August 24, 2010-Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces that, in line with its efforts to ensure an ever-safer traffic environment, it will begin sales on August 30 of an onboard device designed to alert pedestrians and others audibly to the presence of a quiet vehicle, such as a gasoline-electric hybrid. The device will be available nationwide through authorized Toyota dealers and Toyota genuine parts & accessories distributors for retrofitting on the third-generation "Prius" gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle.
The onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound-aimed to alert but not annoy-rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle's speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle's proximity and movement.
The device is designed to meet new Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism guidelines* for hybrid and other near-silent vehicles.
TMC also plans other versions of the device for use in gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles as well as fuel-cell hybrid vehicles planned for launch.
Onboard approaching vehicle audible system details
Price: 12,600 yen (Includes consumption tax; does not include installation charge or other incidental fees)
Compatible vehicle models: Third-generation Prius
Function: Emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor to alert pedestrians and others to the presence of a quiet vehicle.
*Issued in January 2010 and based on assessments from the Committee for the Consideration of Countermeasures Regarding Quiet Hybrid and Other Vehicles, in which TMC participated as a member of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. The committee began assessing possible countermeasures in July 2009, after hearing concerns of drivers and other people about gasoline-electric hybrids and electric vehicles operating in near silence.